NEW YORK -- A wide real estate sales and construction slump may have settled over the Washington area, but the region nonetheless had more housing starts in the third quarter than anywhere else in the country, according to a new report this week.

McGraw-Hill Inc.'s F.W. Dodge division said that 7,155 housing starts were made in the Washington area for the three months ending Sept. 30, a drop of 25 percent from the same period a year ago.

Nationwide, construction of single-family homes, apartments and condominiums fell 20 percent in the third quarter from year-earlier levels, according to the report.

There were 299,299 housing units started in the United States during the three months ended Sept. 30, down from 371,792 in the 1989 period, the construction information service said.

Illustrating that the nation's housing slump has "deepened," only three of the 25 largest home-building areas -- Phoenix, Dallas and Indianapolis -- posted year-to-year gains, F.W. Dodge said.

All of the top 10 areas registered declines.

California's Riverside-San Bernardino area had the second most housing starts in the third quarter with 7,075 units, a 28 percent decline from the same period last year.

Following are the rest of the top 10 housing areas, with the corresponding number of housing starts and percentage decreases:

Los Angeles-Long Beach, 6,982, 46 percent.

Atlanta, 5,806, 37 percent.

Detroit, 5,549, 4 percent.

Orlando, Fla., 4,934, 5 percent.

Seattle-Everett, 4,822, 24 percent.

Las Vegas, 4,784, 49 percent.

Sacramento, Calif., 4,643, 30 percent.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, 4,233, 19 percent.